Russia and Belarus scramble to reach last-minute gas delivery deal before 2020 begins
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev have reached a last-minute, no-contract agreement on fossil fuel transport, narrowly avoiding a supply shutoff in the new year. The Belarusian news outlet BELTA reported on the hurried negotiations, citing Lukashenko’s press service.
At issue in the talks were rail transport routes from Baltic Sea ports and alternative routes for the Druzhba pipeline. Following two phone conversations between Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin on December 30 and 31, the Belarusian president ordered the leaders of his country’s national gasoline complex to alter their planned delivery routes shortly before an agreement was reached.
According to Reuters, fossil fuel supplies to Belarus would have been cut off on January 1 in the absence of a new deal. Lukashenko had openly considered seizing two of Druzhba’s three pipelines to import reserve fuels from Poland in the event of a cutoff. Delayed negotiations between Russia and Belarus have threatened similar shutdowns multiple times in the past; in 2000, gas supply disruptions in Belarus impacted other European countries as well.